Love ’Em ’Til They Ask Why

At first glance, Living for the Brand Cowboy Church in Athens, Texas, was founded by cowboys, for cowboys. But, says Lead Pastor Frankie Smith, only about 20% of the church attendees are actual cowboys. The rest, he says, are folks from every walk of life. 

Living for the Brand aims to reach people through events held at the covered arena next to its main building. The facility is used for bull riding and rodeos, but it also hosts tractor pulls and car shows. Last fall, a freestyle bullfighting event drew 1,600 to the arena. After the show, volunteers handed out church brochures as guests left. They also paused the show at one point to present the gospel, something the church does at every event it hosts. 

“That is the bait we’re casting to draw people in here, but we want to stir up their curiosity enough that they’ll come back on Sunday morning,” Smith says. 

The church is very community focused, holding a drive-through live nativity at Christmas with a raffle for a side of beef. Because the church is big on families, many events are geared toward kids, including bull riding for teens; Little Wranglers, an event that lets kids ride a horse, milk a pretend cow, “brand” goats with flour and a mop, and barrel race with stick horses; and a special needs kids rodeo. 

Many in the church’s leadership are actual cowboys, so they happily provide the animals and expertise for events. But the heart of the church, Smith says, is sharing the gospel. “My heart is to see people have an experience that will create a relationship with Jesus. We’re not here to build rodeo champions. We’re here to build champions in life.”

And whether church members are cowboys or not, that’s something they can get behind and participate in. Everyone can love kids, love families and love people. In fact, that’s the church’s motto: “Love ’em ’til they ask why.”

Jessica Hanewinckel
Jessica Hanewinckel

Jessica Hanewinckel is an Outreach magazine contributing writer.